Students search for houses for second year within weeks of starting university, report reveals

Posted on: 2018-11-10 09:00:00

Students are being forced to search for accommodation for their second year within a few weeks of starting university, a report has found. 

More than two in five (41 per cent) first-year students said they had to begin looking for places to live for the next academic year before the Christmas break, new analysis shows. 

Some freshers are given hardly any time to settle in before they begin the stressful process, with some looking as early as September and October – just weeks after most start university.

The pressure on students to find somewhere to live is even more intense in regions with smaller university towns and cities, the report from consumer organisation Which? University has found. 

Almost half of first-year students surveyed in the North East, South West and East Midlands said they began searching for accommodation for next year in October and November of their first term.

Nearly four in ten said they felt “very” or “extremely” pressured to start looking for homes when they did and to secure somewhere quickly, according to the survey of more than 3,200 freshers.  

A fear that there will not be enough properties for all the university undergraduates is partly fuelling the panic, students say, and some are rushing to secure affordable student houses near to campus.

Many universities have increased the number of students they admit in recent years since the cap on student numbers was removed - and some argue this has increased the competition for housing. 

Emily Marcovecchio, who has just started her second year at Falmouth University in Cornwall, said: “The university keeps bringing in more people but they don’t have enough housing.” 

Many of her peers struggled to secure houses in the student town. “Before you had a foot in the door, it was gone. It was a battle. Some people could not find anything until March,” she said. 

Another first-year student, from the South West, said: “It very much felt like a race. You have no negotiations with price as there are more students than properties.” 

Grace, a student at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol, started looking for a house just over a month after she started university as she wanted something affordable. 

She said: “It was stressful having to speak to people that you really do not know about budgets. 

“I am from a low-income family and we had very different ideas about what we wanted to spend. It was hard trying to negotiate that.”

Grace said they were made to pay a holding deposit straight away and they were only given a week to sign the contract. “It was all very rushed and it was quite scary committing.”

Over recent years, a number of student unions have run campaigns to encourage first-year students not to rush into signing contracts to ensure they have enough time to make the right decisions.  

Eva Crossan Jory, the National Union of Students (NUS) vice-president for welfare, said: “There is a culture now in a lot of universities – outside London – where students sign before Christmas.

“This is quite a big issue on a lot of campuses. Students think they won’t have a house for next year.”

Students in Durham, Bournemouth, Birmingham and Bath experience this rush, she said.

In November last year, students in Oxford camped outside letting agencies on the day that one of the city’s agencies released its list of properties. 

Ms Crossan Jory added: “It is a pressure put on them early on which is unnecessary. They may change courses or realise university is not for them, but this puts so much pressure on them.”

Alex Hayman, Which? managing director of public markets, said: “First-year students are not only having to deal with the stresses of leaving home, managing their finances and adjusting to life at university, but that many of them have the added pressure of needing to look for accommodation within a few weeks of starting their first term.”

Eleanor Busby, Education Correspondent
Source: Independent

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